Our train ride from Amsterdam Central to Paris Gare du Nord was comfortable and smooth. We met the Paluch’s, who joined our group at our Paris hotel for a mid- afternoon three hour Tuk Tuk tour of the city. Open air ride on a beautiful sunny day, these small vehicles could travel and stop on streets that other vehicles could not drive. We asked for a tour of the major sites and arrondissements (districts) of the city to get an overview that would orient/reorient us to Paris. Fun! Our hotel has many outdoor restaurants nearby. We chose a corner one with red awnings and ate large tureens of French onion soup. We were not disappointed.
Next day, Sheila, who is from Denver, and Dee joined us and the Krahn’s for a visit to the majestic, regal and huge (over 700 rooms) Louis XIV Versailles Palace with its beautiful expansive grounds. It is visual overload. Each detail is exquisite, and there are so many details that most are overlooked because the whole is so overwhelming. Of course, the famous Hall of Mirrors was a highlight. Meant to impress those coming to visit the King, it certainly impressed us!
The grounds are also a delight. Because of their immense size, we ordered golf carts to drive along the trimmed hedged corridors past fountains, smaller palaces, outdoor court yards and lengthy man-made canals. King Louis XIV actually had specially built galleons and Venetian gondolas that plied the canals for entertainment purposes. It was all lavishness beyond comprehension. Electronically monitored, the golf carts are given a specific path to follow—go out of the path and the golf cart dies; only the reverse works. Allen drove in the front, because he insisted that I was unreliable as a driver. He went off course twice—I never did! Once, he reversed so much that he almost ended up in a fountain. The people around applauded when he finally got into forward motion.
The Standly’s and Paluch’s went to Giverny for the day. Outside Paris, this home of Monet is filled with a proliferation of flower gardens…a visual delight! Those who appreciate Monet are familiar with the images of the green Japanese bridge draped in wisteria, the waterlily pond, the drifting weeping willows, the flowers and farm scenes that were a part of his property as he developed his impressionistic painting style. His pink home is a French delight filled with Japanese prints, and his painting studio is an artist’s dream. Karen, having been an art instructor, was especially thrilled with the experience. After an inspiring day we all joined together for a Seine Evening River Cruise past beautiful buildings—the burned and under-reconstruction Notre Dame was a sad site, but they are working night and day to have it completed by the Paris Olympics in 2024—to the twinkling lighted Eiffel Tower. Famished, we ate at a wonderful French cuisine restaurant in Paris for a multi-hour meal (multi-course French meals are not fast) and reminiscing about our awesome day. We got to bed near midnight!
After a leisurely next morning, the Standly’s and Graumann’s explored the Montmartre hill with its beautiful memorial white-domed Sacré Coeur and artist shops found in flower-filled squares and quaint cobbled streets. We were totally impressed with an artist who used chicken wire (he was a farm boy) to make beautiful art—using multilayers of wire to get the visual effect of faces on canvass. Hard to explain, yet, creative beauty to behold from such a simple everyday medium. We ate at the famous Montmartre la Maison Rose for a delightful French lunch. My slow roasted hen with lavender-soaked peaches and sauce was yummy. The French do cooking so very well. Later in the day, the Standly’s and Dee and Sheila went to see the iconic Eiffel Tower. They enjoyed the view from the top!
Kathy and I went to the Muséé d’Orsay filled with the paintings of the great impressionist masters. Awe inspiring! The Paluch’s and Krahn’s spent the day in half-timbered and cobblestoned Rouen, northwest of Paris. The capital of Normandy, Rouen is a delightful city housing the majestic Rouen Cathedral with its amazing spires and carved facade. They tried the cherry beer for which the city is famous. 3/4ths of the group liked it—Allen did not. We fended for dinner on our own. Another beautiful day.